The southern division of the St. Louis Senior Wii Bowling League held its championships at Crestview Senior Living in Crestwood last week, and Unreal, an avid fan of both bowling and the Wii, was there to see how the old folk roll.

The Wii craze hit St. Louis-area nursing homes earlier this summer, courtesy not of residents' grandchildren but of two local eldercare organizations, South Grand Senior Ministry and Home Instead.

In honor of the championship, Crestview transformed its formal dining room into a bowling alley of sorts. There were no clouds of smoke or sticky patches of spilled beer, but the loudspeaker played the musical stylings of the Bee Gees. Four Wiis, projected onto four screens, one for each team, were set up at the front of the room. Crestview, owing to home-alley advantage, had the biggest and best-lit screen and also the largest cheering section, composed of residents and staff. The latter cheered enthusiastically. The former tended to shuffle back to their rooms after they'd had their fill of the free punch and cookies.

The Crestview team was a mix of (relatively) seasoned veterans and newcomers, including Edith Weis, 83, who had just learned to use a Wii earlier in the day. "I'm nervous," she confessed before her first turn. "I forgot what they told me."

"You figure it out after the first three times," said teammate Ed Stelfox, also 83. "And then you realize you can't win."

"You got that right," agreed Ollie Evertz, 85. "When I bowled in a regular league, I had a 165 average. I haven't hit that here."

"Still, you keep trying," Stelfox mused. "It's fascinating."

Over the course of the game, Weis gradually mastered the Wii, coached by teammate Shirley Winfrey, 75, who showed her when to release the button on the controller. She finished with a strike and two spares.

Evertz was less successful, as his wicked hook consistently swept the ball into the gutter, just pixels from the pins.

"Are you throwin' it out right?" asked Crestview's one heckler, 90-year-old John Henrichs.

"Who knows?" Evertz shrugged. He hadn't wanted to bowl today anyway, he said, because the women kept beating him. Eventually he handed his controller off to Stelfox.

The 2008 Senior Wii Bowling champions were the team from Garden Villas South, which fielded (or is it rolled?) two legally blind bowlers. The Garden Villas crew cheered raucously enough to shake their minibus as it rolled out of the parking lot.

Crestview finished third. The home team's best bowler was also its youngest, 74-year-old Arlene Bielicki, a.k.a. the "Spare Queen." Her strategy: "On the last ball, I turn around and walk away."

"You don't have a heavy ball," added Winfrey. "That helps when you're older."

The Wii Senior bowling season is over, but Crestview has no plans to change Wii sports.

"I heard boxing is tough," Evertz said.

"I'd only play against girls," Stelfox said. "I mean, older ladies."

"Don't play anyone with a cane," Evertz advised. "She might hit you with it." 

How the Young Folk Roll
This weekend (October 4) six Washington University seniors will travel to Cincinnati to participate in Red Bull's annual Soapbox Derby. Two years ago the same group competed in the event when it was held in Forest Park. Back then their soapbox, modeled after the Popemobile, went to Hell in a hand basket when it inexplicably stopped moving halfway through the race.

This time around the students are working on a vehicle designed to mimic the "Eat Me" parade float popularized in that most quintessential of college flicks, Animal House. No, its birthday cake exterior is not exactly the most aerodynamic of machines. But Unreal's got to applaud their effort for giving it the old, um, college try.

When we stopped by to check out their progress last week, we were heartened to see that at least one thing hasn't changed since we were on campus. Today's college kids procrastinate as well as any other generation. Case in point: A week before the scheduled race and the soapbox team — Jason Anderson, Matt Schweiker, Tommy Pizzini, Chris Bunn, Todd Schiller and Matt Denny — had yet to do much more than nail together a few boards. Still to be done: welding bicycles together to form the chassis, creating the birthday-cake frame and taking the racer out for a test spin.

More pressing for these fellas, though, was the fact that few of their fellow students have seen — or heard of — the 1978 seminal cinematic masterpiece. So what were they going to do? The same thing John Belushi and the guys of the Delta House did in Animal House. They were going to host a screening of the film for their friends and then — a toga party. Construction of the "Eat Me" mobile would wait another day. 

Home of the Siding Mullet
The Vinyl Siding Institute recently alerted Unreal to the fact that Zykan Exteriors of O'Fallon was a winner in the 25th annual Awards of Distinction competition for outstanding uses of vinyl siding.

Wow. Vinyl Siding Institute? That molded, shiny stuff has its own think tank! Polyvinyl chloride sure has come a long way. Unreal wanted to hear more about our local contractor's outstanding work, but the owner of the company was too busy to return our call. So we chatted with Todd Friedman, director of brand marketing for the Ply Gem siding group in Kansas City.

Unreal: I'm gathering from this press release that vinyl siding now comes in different shapes, and in colors other than beige. When did that happen?

Todd Friedman: Probably within the last decade or so. The Vinyl Siding Institute and the manufacturers have focused on ensuring absolute quality, and what you're seeing from brands like Variform is this explosion of color.

Explosion of color, eh? What's your favorite?

I like the greens right now, the mossy greens. They're neutral and subdued, but at least you have some color. Then we do a color called Sedona Red, which is a nice pop.

But you can never change the color without replacing the siding, right? Do you offer some sort of satisfaction guarantee?

We don't have that guarantee [chuckles], but we offer a lot of sample opportunities.

The Awards of Distinction include a category for "historic restoration." What about a category for Outstanding Use of the Siding Mullet?

What's the term?

You know, the siding mullet: brick in the front, vinyl in back?

You see that in new construction. Actually, St. Louis is a pretty big market for that. 

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